Monday, February 13, 2006

Land-Banks as a substitute for Alchemy?!

Carl Wennerlind has a great article online, tracing connections between the alchemical tradition and the rise of credit-money, including land-banking. "Credit-Money as the Philosopher's Stone: Alchemy and the Coinage Problem in Seventeenth-Century England" starts with the "paper-money scene" from Goethe's Faust, traces the uses of alchemical metaphors in the early days of credit-money, and then goes on to show how various individuals who had searched for currency solutions through the transmutation of other substances into gold eventually came around to the plan of transmuting real property into credit-currency. The cast of characters is fascinating. Samuel Hartlib and his circle are at the center of the narrative, and we find that Hartlib himself wrote this text in 1653:
An essay upon Master W. Potters designe, concerning a bank of lands to be erected throughout this common-wealth: whereby lands may be improved in a new way to become the ground for increase of trading, and of publique and private revenues, and accomodations, represented thus briefly, by a person of singular zeal and integrity to all publike interest.

Needless to say, I've already requested a copy from my library.

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